Indie Writer vs Self-Published Writer

Five years ago, there was no substantial difference between these two types of writers. In fact, the term “indie” wasn’t being bounced around yet, and many of the writers publishing their own work today would never have believed they would do it had you asked even three years ago.

Indie publishing and self-publishing still have something of a stigma, and in many cases, it’s a major bias. It’s going to be a very long time before indie works will make a best-seller list against traditionally published books, before an indie title wins a Nebula or Hugo award, and before SFWA accepts indie works as qualifying titles.

What’s the Difference?

To me, this is a very important question, because there is a distinction in my own mind, and the terms seem to be used interchangeably. The terms small press and indie press are also used interchangeably to some extent. This causes endless confusion.

While indie publishing is self-publsihing, not all self-publishing is indie publishing.

The Indie

The indie publishing writer is a writer who, before the radical changes in the industry, would have preferred being hit by a bus to self-publishing. This writer self-publishes not because that is the only route to print, but does it after carefully evaluating the options and deciding that going directly to the public best serves the writer’s career. It is a conscious choice.

The Self-Pub

This writer self-publishes because nobody else will. This writer is desperate to see print. These are the writers who used vanity presses before the Kindle emerged. It was an act of desperation.


The indie writer often has a track record of selling short fiction, non-fiction, and even novels. The self-pub writer used Publish America and Lulu before the Kindle arrived in order to get into print, and they submit short fiction to For-The-Love markets.

The indie writer is a business person, with eyes on budgets, cash flow, expenses, and quality of product going out the door. The self-pub writer is a writer, and doesn’t want to deal with the money end.

The indie writer will sign a contract with the proverbial “big six” in the right situation, and only after evaluating all the options and thoroughly vetting that contract. The self-pub writer will pounce on any contract and sign, possibly without even reading.

Gaining Acceptance

Indie publishing is gaining acceptance through the actions of good authors releasing quality product. Whether this is as a one-person-show, or a cast of hired guns makes no difference. What matters are results.

But, there is a long way to go before it becomes fully accepted, if it ever will. You see, both the self-pub and the indie authors swim in the same pool. From a distance, it’s hard to tell them apart. Get in close, you see one group wading in the shallow end, the other group diving from the three meter board into the deep water.

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